If you wish to create a richer, more vibrant, and more tangible scene for your reader, try adding vivid, sensory description.
Instead of telling us: The swords hit, what about: The swords clanged sharply, leaving a dull ringing in the knight’s ears. Let’s say you were writing about a boy who was embarrassed at school while attempting to solve a problem at the chalkboard. Instead of: The boy felt uncomfortable the next week at school, maybe try: The moment the child caught the thick smell of chalk, his stomach turned and he felt queasy.
Smell, Taste, and Touch are the main senses often overlooked in descriptions, but just how well and how often the reader perceives the visuals and audio of your story’s world can often be overestimated. The image or sound in your head won’t be present in the reader’s head unless you tell them specifically what you want them to visualize or hear.
Many sentences and paragraphs can be tightened, trimmed, and shortened to create clearer, more understandable prose.
For example, you can often cut out adverbs or replace them with better verbs. For example: I ran quickly versus I sprinted. The latter has less words and paints a quicker, clearer image in the reader’s head. Of course, the difference may be minute in many instances, but a lot of streamlining adds up over hundreds of pages and can greatly enhance your overall story.
If you are lagging behind in completing your story, try making a priority list. Number the items from the most to the least important that you need to accomplish to complete your story.
- Decide on an ending
- Decide on cutting chapter five
- Make the twist in chapter two not completely obvious
- Add a flashback for the villain
- Write the last scene in chapter seven
Take your whole work into account. If you’re at the beginning stages of the writing process, writing the middle missing chapters is going to be higher priority than the grammatical editing that you maybe find yourself laboring over for hours. Those grammar problems will probably be changed anyway if you are still early in the process.
Even if your are toward the end of the writing process, still take everything you need to accomplish into consideration. So let’s say that grammatical editing is on the list at this point. Debating whether you want to switch the order of two chapters should still be higher on the list. You only have so much time after all, and thus you should start with the most important tasks to complete your work. Don’t get hung up with what you know how to fix, but rather fix what needs fixing to create a better story.
Keep the Reader in Mind
Your story will greatly benefit if you ask yourself before starting: What do I want my reader to get out of this scene?
Maybe you want your reader to be shocked and awed at a twist: the protagonist’s husband long thought dead is actually alive and faked his own death. So, you would want to take out the part in that scene where you have your protagonist have a flashback about a humorous summer camp talent show some thirty years prior. It doesn’t serve to your purpose.
This is not to say, you can’t have random, meandering scenes. And, sometimes it’s good to just write, letting it pour quickly out of you. But, it is very beneficial and effective to simply know what you are writing and why—at least on some level. Keeping the reader in mind just helps your conscious and unconscious mind focus on what you really want to achieve with your writing.
I’m sure it made perfect sense at the time when your detective was searching for clues and just happened to find an incriminating tiny spot of blood on some flowers in the corner of a massive library because at that particular moment he had a flashback about how he had solved a mystery as a child involving flowers and he thought, Huh, maybe…
Implausibility in stories sticks out to the reader the same way bad CG sticks out to movie audiences. Sometimes the viewers can’t tell exactly where the problem lies with the CG, but they usually can tell right away whether what they are seeing looks fake or not. You don’t want your reader stopping mid-scene and saying: “Yeah right!”
To help you spot what is implausible in your story, try not working on your story, thinking about it, or writing any part of it for a day or two, or for however long it takes your mind to stop racing about it.
This intermittent time will sift out the random ideas and stray concepts you had jumbling around in your mind, leaving just what is actually on the page. After you are able to see the forest from the trees, reread your work casually, noting which parts seem implausible or straight out ridiculous. Then, refocus your writing on these parts.
Do you have some useful writing tips? Comment and let us know.
5 Small Tips to Enhance Your Fiction Writing is written by Michael DeCesaris